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Chipotle Considers Scaling Back New Food Safety Measures: Report

Chipotle is considering scaling back some of its new food pathogen testing measures, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Chipotle Considers Scaling Back New Food Safety Measures: Report
[Photo: Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture]

Chipotle is considering scaling back some of the new food safety measures it recently instituted after a series of foodborne illness outbreaks sent sales tumbling, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The Mexican restaurant chain is considering reducing the use of DNA-based testing to detect pathogens in certain ingredients, according to the report. The company, long known for its use of fresh ingredients, has shifted to having some beef products precooked before it arrives in restaurants, where it is marinated and heated on a grill, according to the report.

"Our food safety program is fine and our commitment to food safety remains strong," Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold wrote in an email to Fast Company. "The sum of the actions we have already taken greatly reduce risk and are we are implementing a very advanced food safety system."

Precooking the beef should reduce the risk of contamination, and Chipotle has also shifted to preparing lettuce and tomatoes outside of restaurants, according to the report. Beef for barbacoa dishes and pork for carnitas items has long been prepared off-site, and the company is considering precooking chicken before it arrives at restaurants, as well, according to the Journal.

The restaurant chain, which experienced a series of E. coli, norovirus, and salmonella outbreaks across the country, has told investors to expect a loss for the first quarter of 2016. Chipotle has taken a number of steps to regain consumers' trust since the outbreaks, including prominently closing all of its restaurants for a live-tweeted, all-hands safety meeting, hiring food safety expert James Marsden to oversee its safety practices and even giving away free burritos.

"Over the last few months, we have made a number of changes to food safety programs—prepping some produce items in central kitchens, blanching some produce items in our restaurants, testing of ingredients, and several procedural changes in our restaurants—and we are continuing to implement additional measures," Arnold wrote. "Our efforts in this area may include changes from time to time, but anything we change we are changing for the better."

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